History of Ebenezer Church of God
Ebenezer Church of God began as a small Malayalee Pentecostal gathering begun by Rev. Varughese K. Mathai (Podiyachan) at Chesnut Hall in Philadelphia in November 1975. Rev. Mathai came to Philadelphia at a time when there were no Malayalee churches in the area. Only eight members were present at that initial gathering, but God blessed his initiative and within a few months many people joined this fellowship. The following year, Rev. Baby Daniel, who was the pastor of a local church in Bombay, India, came to Philadelphia and took charge of the church.
As the membership grew, the congregation decided to affiliate with the Church of God, Cleveland, TN. The church became known as the "39th Street Church of God" in 1977. In July of that year, the church started a Sunday School and by 1981, the F. T. H. (Family Training Hour) meeting was instituted. The church’s first annual convention was held in 1982. Two years later, the church relocated to Northeast Philadelphia and became the “Rising Sun Avenue Church of God”. The weekly cottage meeting was started in 1985.
Having worshipped in rented properties for the first decade of its existence, the church initiated a fundraising campaign and purchased the synagogue at 258-60 East Roosevelt Boulevard in August 1986. At that time, the members selected the new name, “Ebenezer Church of God.” The congregation now had a large sanctuary for worship and a fellowship hall for Sunday School classes, baptismal services, prayer meetings, and fellowship meals. Many families were added to the church in the late 1980’s, at which time the ladies of the church began a Ladies’ ministry and the young men began a “boy’s meeting.”
The church continued to grow in membership, and began to sense the need for a new facility. With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it was unanimously decided in 1997 to purchase a new facility at 2605 Welsh Road. With the purchase of the new facility, the church continued to grow in the 2000’s. To meet the growing needs of the youth, Rev. Mathew George was hired as the youth pastor. Later, Rev. Jacob Baby also served in this role. A Friday night youth prayer meeting (now known as Encounter), was instituted for the young people to grow together in worship and the word of God. The youth organized teams to focus on spiritual activities, outreach, and fellowship events. New programs, such as VBS, Community Day, Youth Convention, and Kids Camp were organized and conducted by the youth.
Also in the 2000’s, a Children’s Church service was instituted on alternate Sunday mornings for the benefit of the children ages 4-11 and a Children’s choir was organized for their musical training. The church website, www.ebenezerphila.org, and the church app were developed for communicating the events and programs of the church with members and with the public.
Additionally, a weekly prayer line was instituted on Monday nights as one more opportunity for the members to join together in prayer. Every winter, the church devoted three weeks for fasting and prayer, bringing the many needs of the church before the Lord. The church began supporting mission stations in the Indian states of Sikkim, Tripura, West Bengal, Jharkhand, and Rajasthan as well as various other mission works in India. The youth organized tract distribution and homeless outreach events, and began an annual collection of gifts for needy children throughout the world, through Operation Christmas Child. Much work remains to be done as the church seeks to fulfill the Great Commission.
By 2015, the church had grown to 85 families. In that year, Rev. Baby Daniel informed the church that the Holy Spirit had confirmed to him that the time was coming for him to retire from his responsibilities with the church. The church put this matter before the Lord and agreed together that Pastor Renjen Philip Cherian is God’s choice to lead us into the future.